When she was 18, Emily Blair made it clear she planned to teach composition at a college or university in the South.

Now, at age 25, this first-generation college student who grew up rural in Fort Chiswell, Virginia, is doing just that at Mitchell Community College in Statesville, North Carolina, thanks in part to a Calhoun scholarship.

“As a poet from a working-class background, this opportunity was incredible,” Blair said. “I knew I would be able to attend college without incurring student loans and be able to focus on my studies, taking a full four years to pursue my interests instead of rushing through the degree to save money.”

As a student at Virginia Tech, Blair, an English major with an American studies minor, explored peace studies and violence prevention, Appalachian studies, history, and more; traveled overseas as part of the Presidential Global Scholars Program; saw her poetry published online and in undergraduate literary publications; and twice took third in the Virginia Tech Steger Poetry Prize competition.

Since graduating in 2015, Blair earned an master’s in English from the University of Louisville and continues to pursue a writing career while teaching. Her first chapbook, We Are Birds, is being published this summer.

Written by Richard Lovegrove and reprinted courtesy of Virginia Tech Magazine